Despite Law, Few Escorts Register With City

September 03, 2013

Go to the escort section for Phoenix on and you will find a very long list of adult ads. If the escorts advertising there are following the law, each one will be licensed and registered with the city. But that is probably not happening. To see why, just do the math.

According to data from the city’s licensing department, only two escorts are registered to work in Phoenix, but to Arizona State University’s Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, who studies sex trafficking, it is easy to see just how many escorts are actually selling their services online. There are “thousands and thousands of ads under that escort category,” Roe-Sepowitz said.

Roe-Sepowitz said the city’s ordinance appears to be irrelevant. Since the 1980s, escort businesses and every one of their employees must
renew the license each year, and at the risk of being obvious, escorts are not allowed to trade sex for money.

“We don’t have a pool of legal escorts to need that statute or licensing board,” Roe-Sepowitz said.

Here is one theory why that pool is so small, the escorts and escort services are often fronts for prostitution, according to city prosecutor Kent McCarthy.

Last fiscal year his office charged 603 people with escort violations. Seventy-five of those escorts were put into a prostitution diversion program. When the program is completed, the escort’s case is dismissed.

“By regulating we can try to stop the problem,” McCarthy said. “When we find people who don’t have the proper licenses, it gives us an avenue to get them into the criminal system.”

As for the police, vice officers are searching online advertisements, assuming the majority of people who call themselves escorts are not really following the law.